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Spain vacations, Europe cruises, Mexico all-inclusives, more

The Deal Detective
by , SmarterTravel Staff
The Deal Detective -Female
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on August 23, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, all-inclusive resort, bed and breakfast, Boston, cruise, Denmark, Los Cabos, Norway, Portland, Russia, seasonality, shoulder season, Spain, Sweden, The Deal Detective, The Deal Detective, vacation package.

Need help tracking down a great travel deal? Then put our expert investigator on the case. The Deal Detective will sleuth out the best bargains that fit your needs.




Dear Deal Detective:


I live in Massachusetts and my son lives in Oregon. No matter how many good deals I find, there never seem to be any good nonstop flights. All trips include stopping in some hub for a few hours at least. Is there any way to shorten a transcontinental trip without flying a redeye?


—R.M.

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Dear R.M.,

I assume you're most likely to fly between Boston and Portland, so I did a search of all daily flights departing between those two airports. Of the 364 daily flights, only five are listed as "direct," and none are "nonstop." The direct flights are offered by American, United, and Delta. (Here's a good explanation of the difference between direct and nonstop flights, incidentally.)

When I expanded my search to include nearby alternate airports (Manchester and Providence) I got a total of 558 flights—but still no nonstops. There were also no nonstops from the Boston area to Eugene, Oregon.

In other words, to phrase it like a native New Englander, "Yeh can't get they-ah from he-ah." (Sorry.) Your best bet is probably one of the five direct flights, which at least means you won't have to change planes at the connecting airport. You could also try some city combinations that would require driving to or from one of the two cities, like Boston to Seattle, which would at least get you a nonstop flight, but likely wouldn't save you any time or money.

If you'd like to check flight schedules yourself, I used SmarterTravel's own handy flight search tool.




Dear Deal Detective:


My husband and I (and possibly our little munchkin) would love to travel to Los Cabos from Sacramento. I have come across some really tantalizing "all-inclusive" packages, and I'm wondering if this is the most economical way to go? Is it in fact more economical ... or just more convenient? Help me see the truth!


—B.J.

Dear B.J.,

In general, all-inclusive trips are a good deal if you plan to use a lot of the facilities and services included in the package, and not such a good deal if you just use the airfare, hotel, and meal components. In any case, checking it out is very easy. Look up the best airfare deals you can find for your travel dates, look up the rates on a comparable hotel, add in an appropriate amount to cover whatever meals and activities are included, plus a guess for the value of any other components included in the package (transfers or such), and then add them up and see whether the separate charges are lower or higher than the all-inclusive price.




Dear Deal Detective:


My husband and I have always wanted to go to Spain and have heard of wonderful places all over the country. Could you suggest a few cities or towns we could plan to visit, since it's not practical to see everything in a week? Both of us love good food, art, and architecture ... we're also up for driving
through the countryside and stopping at small towns with cute B&Bs. (We're on a low budget). Also I do have San Sebastian on my list. Please help, I feel like I'm spinning and can't decide on a specific itinerary.


—R.H.

Dear R.H.,

Normally I don't answer the "where should I go" kinds of questions, but you're in luck because a) I happen to love Spain, and b) I'm planning another trip there myself.

I'm very partial to Catalonia and think it's a great place to spend time. If you haven't already been, Barcelona is a must-see, especially if you like architecture. The Gaudi and other art nouveau buildings around the city are amazing, the food is good, and it's a pretty and pleasant place. From Barcelona, you can take day trips to places like Sitges, a beach town about 45 minutes south on the train; Montserrat in the mountains; Figueres, home of the Dalí museum; Tarragona if you like Roman history; and Cadaquez on the Costa Brava, which I recall being about an hour and 15 minutes up the coast by car (on a road with hairpin turns), and where you can find little quiet inlets along the water, claim a big flat rock, and make a day of sunning yourself and swimming in the clear sea.

If San Sebastian is on the list, you might also consider visiting the Guggenheim in Bilbao. And, you'll be close to the La Rioja wine region. If you do end up in the south, consider visiting Granada. The Alhambra is a true spectacle and the city of Granada is charming. I'd also recommend Cadiz, a small beach town.

If you're interested in B&B type accommodations because they offer a unique experience, you might also want to look into Spanish paradores (similar to pousadas in Portugal, paradores are inns in such unique structures as manor homes or castles). You can search for accommodations by type on the Spain tourism website. It's also a good resource for things such as maps of UNESCO World Heritage cities, national parks, and ideas for driving routes.

And finally, if you're looking for more planning resources, I encourage you to check out our Spain travel guide, which rates websites devoted to travel in Spain.




Dear Deal Detective:


I'm interested in a Northern Europe cruise. Is September a good month weather-wise? And would the rates be cheaper than going during the
summer months?


—M.O.

Dear M.O.,

In general, rates are almost always cheaper to any cruise destination outside of the summer months. In the case of Northern Europe, the bigger problem is that most lines don't offer Northern Europe cruises in September. I found a handful departing within the first week of September, but none after that.

If you want to broaden your search a bit, but stick to cheaper sailings, consider looking into May cruises as well. (You'll have to wait till next year for that, of course.) May and September are the tail ends of the Scandinavia and Russia cruise season, and will typically have lower prices than the peak summer months. You might be a little chillier during these shoulder-season months, but with the money you save on your cruise fare you can afford to buy an extra sweater.

That's it for this month. Need help finding a deal for your next trip? Email me your requests. Please be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot always personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question—and the more specific you are with your departure city and desired travel dates—the better the chance you'll be selected for an upcoming case.

All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.

 
 
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